To the “Intersectional” Feminists of Skepchick

Earlier this week, the atheist feminist blog site Skepchick put up a post that was ostensibly to/complaining about the people responsible for a recent DDOS attack, titled “A Love Letter to our DDOS Hackers”. However, they used multiple instances of unnecessary ableist language. When called out on it, they doubled down and insisted that none of the language they used is ableist. So, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend they really don’t get it and make it easy to understand.
The Skepchick post contained a text segment and an image with words. The text on the image on the Skepchick site is as follows:

FUUUUUUUUUCK THOSE GUYS.

I got shit to say

and you’re a fucking idiot if you think I can be shut up.

For real.

You are the stupidest mother fucker on earth.

Like, I’m literally impressed you remember to breathe every day

if you think taking down a few blogs

for a couple of days 

is going to do anything

other than prove us right. 

 This is ableist. “Idiot” has a history mirroring that of the term “retard”. It became so pervasive a slur it could no longer be used as a diagnostic label. The word “stupid” is likewise ableist, though so accepted that most people fail to recognize it. But the truly astonishing phrase is “I’m literally impressed you remember to breathe every day.” I have friends with a variety of conditions that cause difficulty breathing, including difficulty “remembering” to breathe. These are life threatening impairments, not a joke, and they have NOTHING to do with a DDOS attack or anti-feminists or whatever the hell these people did that was actually egregious (a point not actually established amongst all the ableism.)

 Above the image there is a block of text trumpeting the social justice creds of Skepchick, which I have to seriously call into question now. Here is that text:

This time of year, like every time of year, we draw a lot of attention to ourselves at the Skepchick Network for being a fierce and outspoken, lady-run blog. We bring up controversial topics like, vaccine awareness and the need for harassment policies at conventions. We talk about the lack of women in STEM and we organize events like the Science Track at Convergence (a.k.a. SkepchickCon) to encourage more women to get involved in those fields. We have the brazen nerve to discuss things like equality for women and minority groups and the highly controversial topic of simply wanting to be treated like a human both online and away from the keyboard. We say hey, you don’t need a god or even a spirit guide to be a great person and to love this one, precious life you have found yourself in. We think life is worth living and learning about without superstition. We support a science based perspective that helps us make decisions on medicine and social science and economics. We think women are funny and valuable. With hot-button topics like the need for safe abortions (a.k.a. reproductive healthcare for women) and the idea that religion is simply unnecessary, we expect and even welcome vocal criticism from people who disagree with us. It’s one reason why we have a blog with a comment section.

But we have set standards. You have to be able to hold a conversation with us. You have to be able to argue your point rationally. You have to be able stand up to us with intelligence and a quality argument. You have to actually add to the conversations being had instead of derailing or just shouting in SUPERCAPSLOCK teenage angst.

And over the years, what we have noticed is that a few of you simply can not do this. These few resort to harassing us on twitter and other social media, they make fake blogs in an attempt to mock us, they email us death and rape threats or tell us to “kill ourselves” or they produce poorly photoshopped images of us doing things they want us to do. We have become their obsession.

Some of our self-proclaimed “critics” have launched multiple year, ongoing harassment campaigns. These people go so far as to make up complete lies about us and contact our employers and patrons with these lies. We have seen these same people post our home addresses online in an attempt to frighten us and hobble our ability to communicate- or sleep well, or to peacefully exist. And every so often, when the photoshopped photos of us and the rape and death threats don’t get our attention to their liking, this same quality of “critic” takes the route of frustrated-cyber-silencer and we see our blog network start to load slow or in the case of last weekend, it goes offline all together in yet another successful Denial of Service attack.

It happens. We expect it.

The thing is this, we actually have feelings about our relationship with these cyber warriors fighting to maintain the status quo. They have a hard time understanding the issues we bring up and their place in the future seems uncertain. We know they are upset and they disagree with us and they want to be heard. We want them to feel special and acknowledged.

And it’s ok.

Really.

In an effort to put what’s wrong with this in words Skepchick editors can hopefully understand, here are their own words, edited to omit ableist (and ageist!) bigotry and suit the topic. You may notice a striking similarity between the above and below, and that is my point. The silencing tactics used against feminists are used against disability advocates. The threats and violence and abuse are too.

This time of year, like every time of year, we draw a lot of attention to ourselves as disabled self-advocates for being fierce and outspoken, and unapologetically disabled. We bring up controversial topics like, Social Security standards that make it financially impossible for many disabled people to marry the person they love and the need for accommodations at conventions. We talk about the lack of disability representation in media and we organize events like Boycott Autism Speaks to encourage more disabled people to get involved in self advocacy. We have the brazen nerve to discuss things like equality for disabled people and the highly controversial topic of simply wanting to be treated like a human both online and away from the keyboard. We say hey, you don’t need a body or mind that functions in the most typical ways to be a great person and to love this one, precious life you have found yourself in. We think life is worth living and learning about without bigotry and ableism. We support a science based perspective that helps us make decisions on medicine and social science and economics. We think disabled people are funny and valuable. With hot-button topics like the the dangers of adult guardianship (a.k.a. healthcare and other life decisions for disabled people) and the idea that ableist language is simply unnecessary, we expect and dread the inevitable endless vocal criticism from people who disagree with us. It’s one reason why we most of us who have a blog with a comment section heavily moderate it.

But we have set standards. You have to be able to hold a conversation with us. You have to be able to argue your point without resorting to ableist slurs. You have to be able stand up to us with integrity and a quality argument. You have to actually add to the conversations being had instead of derailing or just shouting in SUPERCAPSLOCK ageist angst.

And over the years, what we have noticed is that a few of you simply can not do this. These few resort to harassing us on twitter and other social media, they make fake blogs in an attempt to mock us, they email us death and rape threats or tell us to “kill ourselves” or they produce poorly photoshopped images of us doing things they want us to do. We have become their obsession.

Some of our self-proclaimed “critics” have launched multiple year, ongoing harassment campaigns. These people go so far as to make up complete lies about us and contact our employers and patrons with these lies. We have seen these same people post our home addresses online in an attempt to frighten us and hobble our ability to communicate- or sleep well, or to peacefully exist. And every so often, when the photoshopped photos of us and the rape and death threats don’t get our attention to their liking, this same quality of “critic” take other routes to discredit and silence us.

It happens. We expect it.

The thing is this, we actually have feelings about our relationship with these cyber warriors fighting to maintain the status quo. They have a hard time understanding the issues we bring up and their place in the future seems uncertain. We know they are upset and they disagree with us and they want to be heard. They want to feel special and acknowledged.

And it’s not ok.

Really.

 

Are you listening Elyse, Amy and Rebecca?

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Deuteronomy 28

The first book I ever remember reading was Deuteronomy. Long before I embraced the works of Dr. Seuss or discovered the magical lands of Fantasia, Narnia, and Pern, I read about God’s threats to the Israelites, should they stray from his commands. I loved the cadence and rhythm to Deuteronomy 28 – it was almost a form of poetry – and I loved the drama.

I sat in the den on a blue gingham-checked sofa and read from my sister’s lavender, leather-bound NIV Bible. The first twelve verses of the chapter detail how the Lord will bless the Israelites if they obey the Ten Commandments, but it was the later verses I found so thrilling.

“You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.
The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hands to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.
The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess.
The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish.
The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron.
The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.
The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth.
Your carcasses will be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away.
The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores, and the itch, from which you cannot be cured.
The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind.
At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.
You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and ravish her. You will build a house, but you will not live in it. You will plant a vineyard, but you will not even begin to enjoy its fruit.
Your ox will be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will eat none of it. Your donkey will be forcibly taken from you and will not be returned. Your sheep will be given to your enemies, and no one will rescue them.
Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand.
A people that you do not know will eat what your land and labor produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression all your days.
The sights you see will drive you mad.

It goes on from there, another 34 verses of curses. God threatens to throw the proverbial book at them if they fall or falter, up to and including genocide, cannibalism, loss of status, loss of livelihood, and the rape of a man’s fiancé. I think this is an odd book of the Bible to start with. Surely most children hear about Noah and the animals, or Adam and Eve and creation, or Jesus performing party trick miracles, before they read the details of God’s version of “justice”.

My mother tried to interest me in the blessings that started off the chapter as well; surely they held the same poetic appeal, the same cadence and music. But the blessings are a scant 12 verses long, and the cursings are 56. Besides, the curses were more descriptive. The sense of total destruction and utter woe is captured as well in this chapter as in almost anything I’ve read since in my life.

I think this was why I never believed the sentiment “God is love”. God was justice to me, not love. Love suggests something gentle, nurturing, and kind. Justice, on the other hand, makes room for both the carrot and the stick, heaven and hell, blessing and cursing. So my God growing up was powerful and just, omnipotent and omniscient, but I never thought he was all-loving or omnibenevolent.

(Originally appeared on my Old Blog.)